"Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined ..." (Luke 11:17-20)

"Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Luke 11:17-20)

Does this follow a cleansing?

This statement follows Jesus having cleansed a man of a demon, followed by the man's physical condition (muteness) being cured:
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. (Luke 11:14)
Some observers questioned the source of Jesus' power to do this:
But some of them said, "By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." (Luke 11:15)
To this Jesus' response begins with, "any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined" and "a house divided against itself will fall".

What does this mean?

It relates to the ridiculous proposal of some in the crowd that "satan" would drive out one of "satan's" own demons. Doing so would effectively be "a house divided against itself."

In other words, Jesus is saying that if he were satan he would not be driving out demons. This is confirmed by his statement:
"If satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?"
Jesus is emphatically defending himself because others were saying that he was satan:
"I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by beelzebul."
Next, Jesus indicates that he is speaking specifically to Pharisees and Sadducees - teachers of the Jewish institutions who have followers:
"Now if I drive out demons by beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out?"
This statement indicates clearly that not only was Jesus driving out demons, but other teachers among the Jewish organizations of the day were also casting out demons. This is further indicated by the point Jesus makes that their followers who were casting out demons would be able to assess whether they were accurate in accusing Jesus of being satan:
"So then, they will be your judges."
We find here that Jesus was not the only one casting out demons. So were others who were followers in the Temple institutions of the day. We know too that indeed Jesus was a follower of the same teachers the Temple teachers followed, including Moses, David and Abraham.

What is casting out demons? And why was it so prevalent during those times? What did they know that we don't?

As evidenced by many of these demon castings in the New Testament, they often resulted in the person becoming cured of a particular physical disease or ailment. As such, they were also called healings.

This is the case for others, many of whom became Jesus' followers, as indicated elsewhere in Luke:
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8:1-2)
We find that the casting out of demons was also connected with being healed of some diseases of the body and mind. This is also evidenced in this case where the man Jesus had cast out demons from was healed of his muteness.

What is going on here? Were demons really being physically cast away? And what is possession? And what does this have to do with the notion of satan?

Actually, they are being cleansed of self-centeredness, greed and envy. This is the metaphorical satan that plaques most of us in the physical world.

And should this be cast away, the result is a change of heart. This is what Jesus was doing as he was "cleansing" people. He was ridding them of their self-centeredness - their personal "demons" - by revealing to them the Supreme Being, who has the power to cleanse the heart.

Who is satan or beelzebul?

Beelzebul - translated from the Greek word Βεελζεβούλ (Beelzeboul) meaning "lord of the house" - is another name for "satan" or the "devil." Who is this?

Some teach that "Beelzebul," "the devil" or "satan" is an entity that has gotten out of God's control and is now messing things up and tempting people. They teach that all the suffering in the world is caused by this person. They teach that he has somehow escaped God's control.

This is ridiculous. It makes absolutely no sense to teach the existence of a Supreme Being - who is all-powerful - yet someone has managed to escape God's control. As if God has somehow lost control over part of His creation.

This is actually no different from atheism. If someone is out of God's control then that contradicts the presence of a Supreme Being who is in control. It contradicts the existence of God to say that someone is out of His control.

The reality is that the Supreme Being exists and He never loses control. Over anything. He is always in control.

This also means that "Beelzebul," "the devil" or "satan" is within God's control.

And this means that all the things done in the name of satan are taking place with the permission of the Supreme Being.

The reality is that the Supreme Being created the physical world - a plane of existence within which there are multiple dimensions - with the opportunity for choice. This enables each individual to make a choice on whether they want to direct their consciousness towards the will of the Supreme Being or their own will - their own enjoyment - self-centeredness.

And the existence of "Beelzebul," "the devil" or "satan" is a personification of self-centeredness - the desire to please oneself over all else.

Yes, Jesus and the other prophets utilized symbolism and personification to describe a number of concepts. Jesus' use of symbolism and parables were used to explain concepts not readily perceived by the mind, as well as to hide certain concepts from those who are not ready to hear them:
"This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." (Matt. 13:13)
The reality is that evil - self-centeredness - has been personified by Jesus and others in his lineage in order to describe the notion of choice: Choosing between the authority of the Supreme Being, or self-centeredness - living for our own pleasure. We each thus have a choice between loving and serving the Supreme Being, or loving and serving ourselves.

This is actually the choice we were each given by the Supreme Being. God created each of us to love and serve Him. But love requires freedom.

Can we be forced to love God?

So the Supreme Being created each of us with the option to love Him or love ourselves.

But if we choose to love ourselves, the Supreme Being has created the physical world in such a way that entraps us into a cycle of consequences to every self-centered action. This allows for not only an independent experience but the opportunity for learning - rehabilitation.

The consequence-system of the physical world is actually a reflection - albeit perverted - of the situation existing in the spiritual realm.

The engagement of the physical world as consequences to our self-centeredness is a perverted reflection of the loving relationships that exist between God and His friends of the spiritual realm - those who have chosen to love and serve God over loving and serving themselves.

In the spiritual realm, every loving action produces a loving reaction. This is called a relationship. When our love is directed at the Supreme Being, that love produces a relationship between us and God. Our expressions of love - loving service - are responded to by the Supreme Being with His own expressions of love.

But in the physical world, our activities of self-centeredness create consequences that we then must deal with. These consequences relate directly to our activities, good or bad. And the state of our personal world is a result of our past behavior.

And yes, we can certainly personify the engagement of the physical world in the form of consequences to our self-centeredness. There are entities that act on behalf of the Supreme Being to help Him maintain the physical world.

But none of these are out of God's control. Whether they realize it or not, they are working on behalf of the Supreme Being. He is in complete control and is arranging everything.

Does God always give us the choice?

This is how the world can get so messed up. It is not the Supreme Being's fault. He simply set up the system of consequences. It is our activities - our choices - that create the consequences of the world - the various sufferings of our physical body and the physical bodies of others. It is our self-centeredness that creates the "kingdom" of "satan."

But fortunately, this physical world is a virtual kingdom. It is real, but it is temporary.

We might compare it to a movie set. The movie set is real in that it exists. But it is not the place it appears to be. It is set up to give the moviegoer the illusion that the set is the real place, just as the actors are real people but they are pretending to be who they are not.

In the same way, the physical world is real, but it is not what it appears to be. It is a place made up of tiny atoms and molecules that reflect light in a certain way that gives our brains the appearance that it is a permanent, solid place. But really it is just a bunch of floating molecules that are changing constantly.

The physical world appears to us to be a place where we can accomplish our dreams. It appears to be a place where we can attain happiness. A place where we can attain pleasure.

But unfortunately, this is all illusion. It is not a place that delivers these. It only appears to be.

Yes, in the physical world we can work our bodies so they attain physical wealth, stardom and the applause of others, and a semblance of power over others. But none of this will give us happiness. None will result in real pleasure.

Instead, all of these activities result in entrapment. As we work to gain physical pleasure, wealth and fame we simply become enslaved.

Just think about it. Think of what it takes to gain these things. They all require work. A person who is famous doesn't get there by chance. They had to work for it at some point. And once they are famous, they have to continue to work for it. If they don't, they won't be famous for long. They have to in effect serve their fans. They have to do what their fans want them to do.

For example, some years ago there was a young girl who became famous for singing to children on television. When her body became a young adult she had to figure out another way to maintain her fame. So she reinvented herself. She began wearing different clothes and acting different. She had to work to maintain her stardom by appealing to an older audience. She had to please her fans. This is called service.

Many famous people will also complain that they lose their privacy. They can't go out without the paparazzi following them and taking pictures. But this is part of the famous person's job to maintain their stardom. They have to please their fans by allowing lots of photos to be taken. This is also called service.

For a person to gain and maintain wealth also requires service. They have to serve those in power and those institutions that help them attain and maintain their wealth.

For a person to gain pleasure also requires service. If a person wants sex, they will have to find a sexual partner and serve them in order to get their sexual pleasure. They might even have to marry them and serve them for the rest of their lives in order to keep getting their sexual pleasure.

This idea of service is also a perverted reflection of the loving service that takes place in the spiritual plane. In the spiritual realm, the Supreme Being is served by those who love Him, and He returns that service with His loving affection - a relationship with the Supreme Being.

The only difference is that the service and the results of self-centeredness in the physical world do not fulfill us, and the service and the results of that service within the spiritual world will fulfill us.

This is because we are each spiritual beings. We are not physical bodies. It is like a person driving his car up to a gas station and filling the tank with gas and thinking the tankful of gas will fulfill his hunger. Because he is not the car, putting gas in the car will not satisfy his hunger.

In the same way, we are spiritual beings, and we are hungry for spiritual food. What is that spiritual food we are hungry for?

Jesus described this elsewhere:
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
This relates the activities of serving God - doing the will of the Supreme Being - "by the finger of God" - to our ultimate spiritual fulfillment:
"But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

What does Jesus mean by "kingdom of God"?

The word "kingdom" is being translated from the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia), which means according to the lexicon, "not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."

In other words, Jesus is not speaking of a physical "kingdom" as in a location. He is speaking of - by the use of "of God" (θεός (theos) - of accepting God's authority.

This means to accept that the Supreme Being is in control. To rely upon the Supreme Being. To take shelter of the Supreme Being. By relying upon the Supreme Being - which means worship, prayer, praising His Holy Names - those demons within - whether they are actual ghosts occupying our physical body or simply our desires and addictions - will be cleansed away.

This is because demons run from the Supreme Being. In the form of ghosts, those who seek enjoyment by occupying others' bodies do not want to worship God. And in the form of our own internal demons - our desires and addictions - they are cleansed away through contact with the Supreme Being. This is Jesus' point as he - God's representative - was able to chase away ghosts as well as addictions and desires through his service to the Supreme Being.

Such a purification allows us the opportunity to regain our lost loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

This is what Jesus meant by:
"then the kingdom of God has come upon you."